EDITORIAL - Respect Heroes Circle
Arnold Bertram last served in a Jamaican government in 2002, the year he lost his North West St Ann parliamentary seat in a general election.
As the minister with responsibility for local government, he liked showing off an artist's impression of an architect's design for the redevelopment of National Heroes Park and the broader Heroes Circle.
Years earlier, at the time of the death of Michael Manley, who was buried at National Heroes Park, a chest-thumping P.J. Patterson, Mr Manley's successor as president of the People's National Party and prime minister of Jamaica, insisted that no one had to lecture his government about the cleanliness and upkeep of the park. It would, he suggested, be a fitting final resting place for Mr Manley and the other outstanding Jamaicans buried there.
Alas, Mr Bertram's project never got off the ground. While during, and subsequent to, Mr Patterson's watch there have been sporadic bursts of energy in cleaning and maintaining the park, the efforts have not been maintained.
To put it bluntly, National Heroes Circle is a bit of a dump, unworthy of a place where Jamaica raises monuments to, and honours, its heroes. In that regard, we welcome the announcement of the clean-up of the National Heroes Park as this year's major Labour Day (May 23) project.
We are prepared for the customary splitting of hairs over the demarcation between National Heroes Park, the bit that was carved from the common area and within which the graves and monuments are contained, and the wider public area.
The suggestion will be the former is usually in reasonable shape.
That, we all know, is a bit of a farce - a three-card trick to obfuscate our inability or failure to develop and maintain a venue worthy of the celebration of our national heroes, while at the same time being functional to the surrounding host communities. In any event, as photographs printed by this newspaper showed, many of the monuments at the dedicated park are in disrepair.
More fundamentally, however, we do not believe that the beautification effort ought to be limited to the discrete area. First, those who know the area perceive National Heroes Park as not only the semi-well-kept area with the monuments, but the expansive scrubby circle with its broken-down fence. Included in the site, outside the park's southeast end, there is a statue of Simon Bolivar, the early 19th-century Latin American liberator, who spent time in Jamaica. That is one of the places were garbage collects at the monument's perimeter fence.
This newspaper, as we have said in the past, is shamed by the state of the National Heroes Circle, from which the specific area of the monuments cannot be separated. For Jamaicans don't see it that way.
If there is real respect for our heroes, we wish that the area dedicated to their memory reflect this - the clean-up should start with prising back from the finance ministry the portion of the circle it captured and despoiled as a car park; repair and maintain the fence around the circle; water the grass; keep the shrubbery in decent condition; and collect the garbage.
This, dependent mostly on minimum wage labour, ought not to be an expensive exercise. It is project worthy of the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme.
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